Ald. Devon Reid (8th) Monday night will ask the City Council to spend $950,000 to purchase a Howard Street laundromat as a potential site for a new affordable housing development.

The $950,000 price sought by the laundry’s owners is $200,000 more than what the property was recently appraised for, but that appraisal didn’t include the value of the laundry equipment.

Economic Development Manager Paul Zalmezak, in a memo to the council, said “there likely is a market” for the used laundromat equipment from the building at 739 Howard St., but provided no details.

Last September, Reid proposed that the city purchase the building at 741 Howard, just west of the laundromat, which had been severely damaged by a fire in July, as a potential affordable housing site.

Zalmezak told Evanston Now late Monday morning that the city is still exploring the possibility of adding that building to the development site.

Looking west on Howard from the city-owned storefronts at 727-729 Howard St. (Google Maps image)

The city already owns vacant storefronts at 727-729 Howard, just east of the laundromat, which Reid has suggested including in the housing development project. He has suggested redevelopment could be undertaken in cooperation with the Housing Authority of Cook County.

Zalmezak says acquisition of the laundromat could be paid for with funds from the Howard Ridge tax increment financing district. The memo to the council does not indicate how redevelopment of the site would be financed.

The city is currently collaborating with HACC on plans to redevelop a city parking lot on South Boulevard at Hinman Avenue in the 3rd Ward as an affordable housing development.

Zalmezak says that development project is likely to begin the city’s zoning review process within the next 30 to45 days.

1425 Emerson St. — one of the now city-owned properties the Council is being asked to pay to demolish.

In another request, the City Council Monday night will be asked by Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) to spend $214,500 to demolish several properties on now city-owned land near the corner of Emerson Street and Jackson Avenue.

The Council agreed to buy the properties last summer for $1.675 million after neighbors scared off market-rate development proposals for the site.

Burns has said he hopes to have a mixed-income affordable housing project eventually rise on the property.

Zalmezak says the city will likely begin seeking developers for the Emerson-Jackson properties soon through a request for proposals process.

He said how much of the new housing in any new development can be made affordable is likely to depend on the availability of state and federal funding to subsidize the projects — funds that are always in short supply.

(This story was updated at 12:25 p.m. with information from an interview with Paul Zalmezak.)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. There is something wrong with Alder Devon Reid proposing the city spend almost a million dollars to buy a laundromat in his ward. He cannot manage his own finances and be fiscally sound so how can we take this proposal seriously

  2. Is Ald Reid trying to get residents to pay for housing in his ward so he can move in?

  3. I hope someone at the City is smart enough to investigate potential conflicts of interest for Reid, which are likely given his track record and lack of financial responsibility.

    Should the city really be in the business of speculatively buying a property at above market prices?

    Yet another ridiculous proposal to waste our city council’s time.

  4. I agree he can’t manage his own finances and he wants the city to buy a laundromat that is more than than the appraised value.

  5. I’d prefer that the City of Evanston not get into the real estate business using taxpayer dollars. Let’s leave that to professional developers in the private market.

    The City council can help increase housing stock by green-lighting more development proposals.

  6. Wow- based on this, the City Council went ahead and did it!

    Why does Devon Reid get no pushback from the rest of the City Council?

    A12 – Purchase of 729-39 Howard. Plus 4 liquor license items, A13-A16, plus A17 – Water supply loan are all approved with one motion.

  7. Conflict of interest aside, why does our City Council behave like a hedge fund? I’m reading about requests to support restaurants, move bookstores and now buying development sites.
    I realize affordable housing does not get built without public support, but wouldn’t we be better off utilizing zoning laws or grants to private developers? The last time I checked, no one on the council has experience in real estate development or site acquisition. This is not a proper role of government.

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